Millions of people will start heading off on vacation in the next few weeks. For many of us, this means hours flying in a plane, crammed in a little seat. For many people, this leads to serious back pain. It’s no surprise, either. The basic economy seat in the “C” shape may be ideal for fitting more seats on a plane, but it isn’t exactly great for comfort. In fact, these seats lack adequate support for the human body. The longer we stay in this position, the more wear our spine experiences.
Needless to say, flying these days is pretty rough on the back. I personally regularly experience back pain after flying. Luckily, there are several proven tactics you can use to significantly decrease the back pain associated with flying.
The best way you can keep your back feeling strong and pain-free during a flight is to stretch throughout the journey. Bend to touch your toes in your seat. Pull your knees up to your shoulders one at a time. Do any of the regular premium performance stretches that we suggest on a daily basis that are possible without disturbing your neighbors. A little will go a long way during your flight.
2. Take bathroom breaks or walk the aisle every hour.
When you sit for long periods of time, neural activity in your legs decreases, and you end up suffering. To avoid this damage, you should get up and move during the flight. Ideally, five minutes of every hour should be spent walking. Take regular bathroom breaks or simply walk up and down the aisle throughout the flight. It is easier to do this when you have an aisle seat, so keep this in mind when picking a seat.
3. Get creative with a neck pillow to support your spine.
A neck pillow helps support your neck and prevents a crick. Of course, it’s not just the neck that is badly supported by the average seat on a plane. You can place the pillow in the small of your back to support the spine as well. By getting creative and moving the pillow regularly, you’ll find that your spine is better supported and in less pain upon arrival.
4. Keep your feet in front of you and moving throughout the fight.
Part of this is simply posture support. When you sit properly, your back is less likely to ache. There is a secondary reason, though. Fidgeting has been shown to help minimize the damage done by sitting for too long. You can sustain a seated position for longer without back pain when you keep your feet moving by stretching or simply moving the feet. In addition, circulation will improve. This reduces fatigue and decreases the chances of a more serious medical condition, such as a deep vein thrombosis.
pack light5. Pack light.
While much of the damage you do to your back when flying happens actually on the plane, some of it occurs long before or after disembarking. Many people injure their backs lifting heavy luggage or carrying badly designed, overfilled backpacks around the airport. To prevent this, pack as light as possible. What you must take with you should be carefully packed in supportive, high-quality luggage.
6. Ask for a doctor’s note for the airline.
Airline staff, especially flight attendants, will be much more accommodating to your needs when you have a doctor’s note explaining that you are being treated for back pain. You may be able to get a better seat, but at the very least, you will have the support of the airplane crew when you get up to stretch or move your legs. I have provided my own patients who suffer from back pain notes in the past, and I find it can make a huge difference in your treatment by the airline during a difficult flight.
Do all of these things, and you will quickly find that flights are much easier to make it through this holiday season. You’ll decrease the back pain associated with flying and arrive to your destination with your health intact. Now you just have to worry about keep yourself healthy for the holidays at your destination.